The New Normal: Leading a Remote Team with Empathy

Perspectives
Aug 17, 2020
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6 Min Read

Managing a remote team is no easy feat. Leading your team as they work from home full-time during a pandemic is quite an undertaking.  

For Linh Tran, Senior Manager of Customer Education and Content Strategy at Quick Base, the transition has been smooth. She and her team don’t take it for grantedAlthough idea of flexible schedules and working remotely was not new for Tran and her team, the new normal has also brought significant change for them.  

As Tran points out, working remotely is “97% great. But there is that 3%.” And, as she points out, everyone is experiencing that challenging 3%. That’s where her work as a manager comes in. 

The Pivot to Full Remote Team Management

Despite the pandemic, Tran and their team consider themselves lucky. Before COVID-19, they’d already been working from home at least one day a week. This previous experience had helped them figure out how to be productive from the comfort of their couch. 

After two months, Tran can confidently say that she’s proud of the work her team is doing. Her relationship with her team is rooted in trust. 

Trust is Key

Before COVID-19, Tran had worked to develop a solid relationship with her team. She knew they were responsible and trusted they could get the work done from home. With the crisis, however, it became more important than ever to realize that “there is a lot of stuff going on all over the place outside of your virtual zoom screen. And it requires a lot of trust.”  

Trust starts with a manager who recognizes the exceptional talent in their team. This support and belief bring out the best in others.  

In Tran’s case, she has full trust that her team will get their job done. The result is a team that has their manager’s back. This is how she establishes trust during COVID-19: 

  • Recognize that there’s an artificial line between work and home life 
  • Encourage your team’s resourcefulness 
  • Acknowledge their commitment 
  • Promote work-life balance 

Developing a Tailored Management Style

Tran’s management style is rooted in the principle that each team member is different. She has always tried to tailor her management approach to the person and where they are in their careers. With the current crisis, the trust in her team allows her to be extra flexible in her approach. 

Pay Attention to Signals

As Tran highlights, “We all go through things differently.” She knows this well because her staff is made up of people in all sorts of situations. With team members who are just starting their careers and others who need to work at odd hours to balance their family life, Tran is careful to pay attention to the small signals.  

Here are some takeaways from her management style: 

  • Schedule regular one-on-ones 
  • Ask “how are you coping?” instead of “how are you doing?” 
  • Be mindful and pay attention to details 
  • Offer help with scheduling or prioritizing tasks 

Communicating & Showing Empathy

When you tailor your management style to the individuals in your team, communication and empathy follow. During teams working through a pandemic like COVID-19, it’s even more important to keep the communication channels open.  

“This process has made me so much more compassionate towards people in their different living situations,” says Tran. It’s important to remember that everyone has different issues to deal with during this time. While some may be lonely and throw themselves at work, others may have a tough time balancing a full house and family responsibilities. Both scenarios are equally valid and deserving of your empathy as a manager. 

Lead with Compassion

Leading with compassion has delivered superior results for Tran. Her recommendations are: 

  • Communicate 
  • Stay calm 
  • Be transparent and supportive 
  • Focus on the things you can control 

During times of uncertainty, working with a remote team requires leadership and mentorship from management. Team support, flexibility and compassion are key to any successful operation these daysDon’t hesitate to ask and listen to your team. This approach will empower your team to achieve on our new normal.